NFL cut candidates: Russell Wilson, Jamal Adams among veterans on shaky ground

Before NFL free agency begins, teams have some in-house business to address.

March will no doubt give rise to some notable spending sprees, with a host of marquee players set to hit the open market – assuming they don't receive the franchise tag. But before that point arrives, coaching staffs and front offices will have to examine their rosters and determine whether some notable veterans need to be released before the new league year begins.

For some franchises, that process has already begun, with some scattered transactions already becoming official not long after the Super Bowl. Others – such as the perpetually cap-strapped New Orleans Saints – might try to resist parting ways with key figures and instead try to delay the issue for another day via contract restructures and extensions. But financial realities will assuredly prompt some significant splits throughout the league.

Here are 17 notable candidates to be roster cuts in the coming weeks (cap and contract figures courtesy of Over The Cap):

Arizona Cardinals OT D.J. Humphries

Would a team with one of the NFL's most talent-starved rosters really cast off one of its few veteran mainstays? Humphries, 30, is a four-time captain and has anchored the Cardinals' line since being selected in the first round in 2016. His recovery from a torn ACL suffered in Week 17, however, could extend well into the regular season, making his cap hit of almost $22.9 million hard to swallow. Arizona could save $9 million by cutting him. If it does so, the team could either move 2023 first-round pick Paris Johnson over from right tackle or target a blindside protector in the draft – potentially at either No. 4 or 27 in the first round.

Buffalo Bills CB Tre'Davious White

The Bills trail only the Saints in currently standing $55 million over the cap. That outlook could necessitate some difficult departures. Possibly the toughest move for the locker room would be parting ways with White, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and longtime tone-setter for Sean McDermott's defense. But he's coming off a torn Achilles in 2023 and also tore his ACL two seasons prior. After acquiring Rasul Douglas at the trade deadline, the Bills might have enough flexibility at cornerback to move on from White and save $6 million.

Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon

To stay in Cincinnati, Mixon last year agreed to a revised contract that amounted to a $4.39 million pay cut for 2023. With his name again being floated as someone whose time with the Bengals could be coming to an end, Mixon railed against the notion his dismissal could be forthcoming. Still, his $8.85 million cap hit currently stands as the sixth-highest for any back in 2024, and there are much cheaper alternatives elsewhere – including 2023 fifth-round rookie Chase Brown.

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

The six-year veteran hasn't recorded 40 catches or 500 yards in a single season since 2020. Not great for a player who signed a five-year, $57.5 million contract after a torn ACL ended his 2021 campaign. A post-June 1 cut designation would likely be necessary, as it would provide $9.5 million in cap room while spreading out a $13 million dead cap hit to a franchise in a tricky bookkeeping spot.

Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Inglewood, California.
Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Inglewood, California.

Standing in stark contrast to the rest of the entries on this list, Wilson offers no savings as a potential release but rather a historic $85 million dead cap hit – even if spread out over two years as post-June 1 cut – for Denver. While Sean Payton has maintained no final decision has been made on the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback's future, the two sides might have reached a point of no return after Wilson's benching. The contract issue that precipitated that move could come to a head soon, as Wilson will be guaranteed $37 million for 2025 if he remains with the team on the fifth day of the new league year in March.

Green Bay Packers OT David Bakhtiari

At $40 million, Bakhtiari has the largest 2024 cap figure of any non-quarterback. That's obviously untenable for a 32-year-old left tackle who has played in just 13 regular-season contests in the last three seasons, including one in 2023 before he was shut down due to a cartilage issue in his left knee. Bidding farewell and netting nearly $21 million in space is the reasonable outcome for Green Bay.

Jacksonville Jaguars OT Cam Robinson

With breakout pass rusher Josh Allen a likely candidate for the franchise tag and leading receiver Calvin Ridley seemingly bound for free agency, the Jaguars might need to free up some space to keep their most vital offensive pieces. That could leave Robinson on the outs. The left tackle was a vital part of the initial support plan for Trevor Lawrence, and he agreed to a three-year, $52.75 million deal in April 2022 after receiving the franchise tag in consecutive offseasons. Now, however, Robinson might be expendable for a team that has younger alternatives in Walker Little and Anton Harrison. But Jacksonville could always opt for a restructuring or extension to ease their immediate fiscal commitment.

Kansas City Chiefs WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

The deep threat's connection with Patrick Mahomes hasn't coalesced in his two seasons since arriving from Green Bay, with the six-year veteran posting career lows of 21 catches and 315 yards in a 2023 campaign that was largely defined by miscues. Kansas City can recoup $12 million of his $14 million cap hit for next season. For a receiving corps that looks due for an overhaul, this looks like a fairly easy call.

Las Vegas Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow

QB Jimmy Garoppolo isn't the only holdover who doesn't seem to have a place with the Silver and Black's new regime. Now two seasons removed from his breakout campaign, Renfrow played in just 35% of the Raiders' offensive snaps in 2023. Swallowing a $13.7 million cap hit for a lightly utilized slot receiver is likely a non-starter for Las Vegas.

Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams

The cap pruning that began this week with C Corey Linsley's contract restructure could turn into a full-on shearing. While Keenan Allen could also be on the chopping block given his $34.7 cap hit, setting loose Justin Herbert's go-to target would be a significant setback to the Year 1 outlook for Jim Harbaugh. Williams, who will turn 30 in October, is coming off a torn ACL and is set to count $32.5 million against the cap – second only to Allen among all wideouts. Given the potential for the Bolts to add a top-flight receiver with the No. 5 overall pick – and 2023 first-round selection Quentin Johnston attempting to bounce back from a rocky rookie season – a youth movement certainly makes sense for this receiving corps.

Chargers OLBs Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa

The Chargers' two star pass rushers warrant a separate mention here. Mack, 33, is coming off a career season with 17 sacks but would eat up $38.5 million in cap space. Bosa, meanwhile, has played in just 14 games in the last two seasons and will carry a $36.6 million hit. Restructuring might be the preferred route for the Bolts, but there could be some tough calls ahead for a franchise that still needs to find $35.5 million in spending space.

Miami Dolphins DE Emmanuel Ogbah

Sitting at more than $51 million over the cap, the Dolphins have plenty of work to do to get their financial outlook in order. Despite Jaelan Phillips facing recovery from a torn Achilles and Andrew Van Ginkel hitting free agency, moving on from Ogbah seems like a necessity. Allotting $17.7 million in cap space for a depth piece who has totaled just 6 ½ sacks the last two seasons is a luxury that Miami can't afford.

New York Jets G Laken Tomlinson

The Jets' future up front is already unclear with a new left tackle likely needed to bolster Aaron Rodgers' protection. Would Joe Douglas create further uncertainty by releasing Tomlinson? With just under $2 million in spending room at its disposal, Gang Green needs more flexibility if it is going to be in the mix to aid its win-now cause by securing veterans. Tomlinson hasn't lived up to the three-year, $40 million deal he signed in 2022, and the Jets could free up more than $8 million by parting ways.

Philadelphia Eagles S Kevin Byard

The move to acquire the two-time All-Pro safety at the trade deadline hardly had the desired effect for Philadelphia, which saw its pass defense undergo a late-season nosedive. Though Byard was serviceable, his $14.4 million cap hit is extremely difficult to justify given the state of the Eagles' secondary. Moving on would open up $13 million.

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Allen Robinson II

The Steelers already dropped QB Mitchell Trubisky, OT Chuks Okorafor and P Pressley Harvin III earlier this month, and they likely aren't done clearing room. After Pittsburgh took a flier on Robinson last offseason in a trade with the Rams, the 10-year veteran posted just 34 catches for 280 yards. The $10 million in cap savings his release would create can be better utilized elsewhere.

Seattle Seahawks S Jamal Adams

Changes are coming to Seattle's defense as it pivots from the Pete Carroll era to new coach Mike Macdonald's leadership. There's little reason to believe Adams will be one of the figures to provide a bridge between the two regimes. Keeping a safety who is a liability in coverage and carries a $26.9 million price tag is a dicey proposition, and Adams' injury history further solidifies the case against him.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL cut candidates 2024: Russell Wilson among names on chopping block